Home-buyer loan approvals down by 10% but re-mortgages rise

The number of mortgage approvals being made to home-buyers was down by 10% year on year in March, a high street banking report shows.

Some 37,567 loans for house purchase were given the go-ahead in March, figures from trade association UK Finance show.

This compares with 41,722 in March 2017.

By contrast, re-mortgage approvals were up year on year.

There were 28,321 re-mortgage approvals in March, compared with 25,780 in March 2017.

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Commenting on the report, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: "Mortgage approvals continued on their downward trend in March, demonstrating that consumers aren't confident enough to make major financial commitments.

"As with all March data, bad weather might have depressed activity."

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY Item Club, said mortgage approval numbers for house purchase are now 27% below the long-term average seen over the past 20 years.

He said recent trends point to the housing market remaining muted as it comes under pressure "by still limited consumer purchasing power, fragile confidence and likely further gradual Bank of England interest rate rises following November's first hike since 2007".

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: "At the coalface, what we have been finding since March is that there are more properties coming on to the market and buyers and sellers are negotiating hard to establish what both parties consider is a fair market figure in the new environment."

Meanwhile, outstanding levels of credit card borrowing have grown by 5.8% over the year, UK Finance said.

Personal deposits grew by 1.8%, slightly down on the previous six-month average of 2% annual growth.

UK business borrowing was up slightly, at 0.2%.

UK business deposits increased by 3.4% over the year, down on the previous six-month average of 6.4%.

Stephen Pegge, managing director of commercial finance at UK Finance, said: "Bank lending to the manufacturing sector saw a 9% boost in the year to March, helping businesses to grow and invest.

"This reflects improved optimism amongst manufacturing firms, who are taking advantage of the competitiveness of sterling and strengthening global economy to expand overseas.

"Overall lending to businesses of all sizes is marginally up year on year. However, borrowing in the construction sector has contracted, affected by the unusually severe weather.

"This mixed economic outlook is expected to continue in the coming months, as rising wages and output growth are counter-balanced by uncertainty over Brexit impacting on longer-term investment decisions."